Recently, both Slate and Salon have run pieces discussing the newfound love that young white men seem to have for David Foster Wallace. Perhaps the attention is because of the upcoming movie about the late author, but I also think it speaks to the snobbery of the authors of those pieces. I think that Wallace’s appeal has transcended the inner circle of literary geeks should be cause for celebration, not squeamishness. I would much rather see an exploration of why these young guys have taken an interest in his work, and how they connect with it.
That is, if they’re actually reading it. Both articles argue that most copies of the 1,088 page Infinite Jest that are being sold to all the young dudes are for display purposes, as a kind of intellectual peacocking. I know I’m treading into some weird waters with this, but I haven’t read any of Wallace’s fiction, only some essays. In those essays, I found him to be an empathetic, sensitive, and passionate writer. Based on that alone, I’d like to see more young men actually reading his work, and cultivate a similar curiosity about the world around them–and a similar ability to see the world beyond their own noses.
Author’s note: This has been edited since the initial posting because I was too tired and cranky to do a second draft.